Richard Sloan, one of the founding members of what is now Fennemore Craig, P.C., in his book, Memories of an Arizona Judge, recalls his arrival in Phoenix in 1884, "the train slowed down, and the brakeman stuck his head in the car door and shouted, 'Maricopa- all out for Phoenix!' I stepped from the train, somewhat surprised that I was the only passenger to do so."
As Mr. Sloan stood alone on that train platform in 1884, only 5,500 people lived in Phoenix and the city covered one and a half square miles. Today, Phoenix is home to approximately 1.4 million people. Equally as remarkable, considering what Mr. Sloan encountered in 1884, is the size of the Mountain West region's 21st-century economy, driven by high-tech manufacturing, mining, construction, tourism, transportation, health care, energy and agriculture industries.
Mr. Sloan was joined by a fellow Ohio law school graduate, Louis Chalmers. In January 1885 they presented their credentials to the Territorial Supreme Court. Sloan & Chalmers subsequently opened in downtown Phoenix at what is now the intersection of Washington and First Avenue. Mr. Sloan went on to serve as Associate Justice on the Arizona Territorial Supreme Court, and as the 17th and final Governor of the Arizona Territory. As Governor he oversaw Arizona’s transition from territory to statehood.
When Arizona became a state in 1912, Edward Kent joined the firm after serving on the Territorial Supreme Court. Mr. Kent authored the "Kent’s Decree," which established water rights for nearly all of the Salt and Verde River systems. The "Kent's Decree" stood the test of time and still governs water rights in Central Arizona after seven decades.
Harry Fennemore joined the firm in 1916. Mr. Fennemore drafted Arizona's workmen's compensation law and sales tax act. Mr. Fennemore also brought with him as a client the Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company, the successor of which the firm represents to this day. For over a century, Fennemore Craig has been involved in the development of Arizona's telecommunications system through policy-making and shaping administrative regulation of communications companies.
Jubal Early Craig and Virgil Bledsoe joined the firm in 1927. Mr. Craig helped organize the State Bar of Arizona, contributed to the writing of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and helped form the Maricopa County Legal Aid Society.
Jubal Craig's son Walter Craig joined the firm in 1936. While with the firm, Walter served as the president of the Arizona Bar Association and, in 1963, became president of the American Bar Association, a rare accomplishment for an attorney from a then small western state like Arizona. Mr. Craig also served as special counsel to the Warren Commission, which investigated the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In 1963, following his service to the Warren Commission, he served as a judge on the United States District Court for the District of Arizona until his death in 1986. The State Bar of Arizona’s Walter E. Craig Distinguished Service Award is named after Mr. Craig. It is awarded to the attorney who has manifested adherence to the highest principles and tradition of the legal profession and service to the public in the community in which he/she lives. The following Fennemore Craig attorneys have received this award: Philip E. Von Ammon – 1988; Calvin H. Udall – 1993; Kenneth Sherk – 1999; and Neal Kurn – 2014.
Phillip Von Ammon, who joined the firm after serving as counsel to one of the firm’s major clients, the AT&SF railroad. Mr. Von Ammon subsequently served as president of the Arizona Bar Association and as the firm's managing partner for many years.
Between 1954 and 1962, Calvin Udall served as the attorney for Arizona in the titanic legal and political battle between Arizona and California for control of Colorado River water. Mr. Udall was part of Arizona's legal team in 1963 when the United States Supreme Court allocated the rights to Colorado River water. Without Colorado River water, growth of Arizona's major cities, particularly Phoenix, would never have materialized. Mr. Udall also was a tireless supporter of diversity in the legal profession, chairing the American Bar Association Task Force on Minorities in the Legal Profession, which issued its report in 1986, highlighting the lack of opportunities for minorities as lawyers and judges. He later served with a small group of legislators, judges and lawyers as the Ad Hoc Committee for Minority Opportunities in the Arizona Judiciary, which subsequently became the Commission on Minority Opportunities in the Arizona Judiciary through an Administrative Order of the Arizona Supreme Court in 1990.
Continuing the firm's enduring presence on water issues facing the Southwest, Jim Johnson was a principal negotiator and drafter of the Arizona Groundwater Management Act, which was vital to balancing the growth in Arizona with the available water supply. Without the sustainable water supply that resulted from the state's Groundwater Management Act, growth in Arizona would have slowed decades ago.
In 1957, John O'Connor joined the firm. He met his future wife, Sandra Day, while they served as editors of the Stanford Law Review. Sandra Day O'Connor went on to serve as the first female justice of the United States Supreme Court. When Justice O'Connor was nominated for the Supreme Court in 1981, she relied on attorneys from the firm to help her prepare for her confirmation hearings. When Justice O'Connor joined the Supreme Court in September 1981, she hired Fennemore Craig attorney, Ruth McGregor as her first law clerk.
In 1974, Fennemore Craig hired its first two female attorneys Ruth McGregor and Toni McClory. The firm subsequently became one of the first law firms in Arizona to elect females as shareholders. Ms. McGregor later served 11 years as a justice of the Arizona Supreme Court. Justice McGregor served as an associate justice until 2005, when she became the court's second female chief justice. Ms. McClory went on to serve as an Arizona Assistant Attorney General from 1976-1991.
The firm expanded into Tucson in October 1989 and then into Nogales in September 1999 with the addition of Kim and Hector Arana and a robust cross-border trade practice. Fennemore Craig opened a Las Vegas office in September 2006, welcoming attorneys from Morse and Mowbray, and later that year, it opened an office in Denver with the addition of intellectual property attorneys from the Dahl firm.
In July 2012, the firm welcomed 25 attorneys from Jones Vargas, a law firm with offices in Las Vegas and Reno, Nevada. Like Fennemore Craig, Jones Vargas had a rich history and deep local roots. The Jones Vargas roster over the years has included governors, state senators, state assembly representatives, state bar governors and presidents, governors of the American Bar Association, and community leaders. Ann Morgan now serves on the State Bar of Nevada Board of Governors. John Mowbray, the Las Vegas office managing partner, is a former president of the State Bar of Nevada.
Upon the addition of the Jones Vargas lawyers in Las Vegas and Reno, Fennemore Craig established an even larger presence in the Mountain West; doubling the size of its Denver office in 2014, with the addition of 13 health care litigators, bolstering the firm’s competitive edge.
In 2015, Fennemore Craig embarked upon its 130 year anniversary and added 19 lawyers in the Las Vegas and Reno offices from the prominent Lionel Sawyer & Collins firm. The arrival of the Lionel Sawyers lawyers included the legendary Sam Lionel, who co-founded the Lionel Sawyer firm in 1967 with former Nevada Governor Grant Sawyer, who has since passed away. Sam Lionel has been instrumental in the evolution of the legal profession in Nevada. Joining Mr. Lionel was former U.S. Senator Richard Bryan, who also served as Governor of Nevada for two terms prior to serving in Washington, D.C. in the U.S. Senate.
Many of the issues and clients with which Fennemore Craig has been involved have shaped the Mountain West. Now among the 250 largest law firms in the nation, Fennemore Craig continues to help entrepreneurs and businesses reach their goals.